January 12, 2011

Last night I watched an inspiring documentary on Jean Michel Basquiat. I’ve always loved his work, and to finally find out about the man was wonderful. The way he approached art is, in many ways, particularly with execution, completely different than my own work. His work has a loose, raw, almost childlike feel that I’ve always admired. This is something that, for me, isn’t easily accessible. My photography has a clean, refined look about it, and mostly I’m fine with this. I think it’s completely normal for an artist to wonder and marvel at the process and work of artists he or she admires, knowing full well that it isn’t something that can be replicated by oneself.

Something Basquiat talked about during an interview: During the late 70′s and early 80′s most of the modern work being shown was, “Alienating to the viewer”. Think of giant white canvases, or three color bars against black. To me, this kind of work often doesn’t do a damn thing on it’s own. It’s not until you read what it’s supposed to represent that it has any chance of being at all interesting. I have always felt that a painting, and certainly a photograph, must be able to stand on it’s own. Though I understand that it might be important to be able to talk about the image, ultimately, for me at least, I need some kind of impact from the piece itself. Of course, everyone is different and is going to have different feelings about various art, particularly when that art is at the fringe of what can be considered art. And I don’t mean in a John Cage-Everything is art kind of way, but where something has been actually created with intent.

This brings me back to to tonight’s photograph. Before you read this I would like you to look at the image again, and decide if it effects you in any way. I’m extremely happy with it, and it does speak to me. I have always been drawn towards simply shape and color, and I believe the various elements to be harmonious. The rule of thirds, forced edge at frame right, and particularly the chalky line that runs top to bottom – The way I’m wired to process my world, all of these things work together perfectly. If I saw this image, and it was the work of another photographer, it would indeed speak to me. The question is: Is it alienating to you, or does it speak to you in some fashion?

Finally, this image is actually a response to some of Basquiat’s later paintings. Working with huge canvases, he created pieces that were sparser than his previous works, and they are truly magnificent. His use of space is absolutely astonishing. That use of space is exactly what I was thinking of when I created this photograph. In addition, the chalky vertical line reminded me of the rough line work that was a constant in almost all of his paintings.

A Possibly Rigid Answer to Alienation – Downtown LA

ISO 400, 24-70 @ 45mm, f/5.0 @ 1.3 sec – sticks – available light (streetlamps)

2 Responses to “January 12, 2011”

  1. Rolanda says:

    Color, texture, curious…window peeping, patterns…lighting combo with colors. Mostly excitement with a touch of Predictability…

  2. Joël says:

    Hi Ben!
    Yes, it does have an effect on me. Pretty much for the reasons you stated: the composition, it’s harmonious (rule of thirds), the colours, even the texture. Now, it reminds me of what a teacher used to say “Go back to basics, always go back to basics”. The difficulty being then, how and when to apply that to a given situation. Well, you certainly overcame it.

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